Oxymoronic Catch-22 @DWP: New ‘Health & Work Conversation’ is both mandatory and ‘voluntary’…

In true Oxymoronic Kafka style the new joint DWP and ‘Nudge Unit‘* ‘Health and Work Conversation‘ (HWC), starting April 2017, is both mandatory and voluntary, to quote:

“The Health and Work Conversation is claimant led, if a claimant feels uncomfortable answering some questions in the Health and  Work Conversation they will not be referred for a sanction. However, if they refuse to engage at all in the HWC then they may be referred for a sanction. The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/794) contain the provisions which enable the Department to apply a sanction” [emphasis added]
Source: DWP – 24 January 2017

Plus when a HWC Action Plan is ‘agreed’, any activities are “voluntary”, to quote again:

“The Health and Work Conversation will help claimants to establish a
relationship with their work coach at an early stage, provides an opportunity for the claimant to be made aware of available support, and allows the claimant and work coach to jointly develop a plan of voluntary activities” [emphasis added]
Source: DWP – 30 November 2016

This is a form of DWP/Nudge Unit behaviour modification negates any idea of ethical ‘choice architecture‘, when backed by a punitive benefit sanctions regime of conscious cruelty.

“Welfare reforms and £330 million employment package start from April 2017**
This will also include:

  • 300 new Disability Employment Advisers in jobcentres across the country
  • a one-to-one health and work conversation with a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach to help raise confidence in managing a health condition, when appropriate” [emphasis added]

Source: DWP – 31st March 2017


More comments and analysis and FOI Act requests on the HWC, can be found on https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/dwp, outstanding requests of note ‘Regulations & Tailoring‘ and ‘Queries‘.

“There does not appear to be any prescribed powers for the Secretary of State to require an ESA claimant to discuss their health or set health related goals with a work coach at a WFI” (Work Focused Interview aka Health and Work Conversation)

*Behaviour Insights Team (BIT), also known as the ‘Nudge Unit’.
“The conversation was co-designed by the DWP with BIT, health and disabled people’s
charities, and front line staff. It draws on an extensive body of behavioural research
undertaken by Professor Gabriele Oettingen and others at New York University.”

**The DWP has said the “Health and Work conversation training is still being developed and will be available to support Health and  Work Conversation roll-out in summer 2017”





#UniversalCredit and the YOBS: Apprenticeships, Traineeships, Work-Base Skills and Work Placements. All to be Mandatory

If you are 18-21 years old and to prevent your out of work Universal Credit being sanctioned, you must, if still out of work after six months:

1. Apply for or start an apprenticeship
(England) – (Northern Ireland) – (Scotland) – (Wales)
2. Apply for or start a traineeship
3. Undertake work-base skills
4. Apply for or start a work placement

How can any of the above be voluntary, as not doing 1-4 means Universal Credit sanctions?

“…those still out of work after 6 months will be required to apply for an [1] apprenticeship, a [2] traineeship,  [3] gain work-based skills or take up a [4] work placement in order to keep receiving benefits” [emphasis added]
Source: Centrepoint  – 23rd March 2017 – ‘Invitation to tender: the impact of the Youth Obligation on disadvantaged young people’

The above is how the DWP’s new Youth Obligation Benefit Scheme is formulated and therefore none of 1-4 can ever be undertaken voluntarily, according to a benefit claimants own free-will. This coercion is especially true when 1-4 are not agreed to, as a fifth option exists for Jobcentre Work Coaches, that being explicitly mandatory forced-labour workfare or sanctions and risk of destitution if declined. Save for the back-stop option to claim means tested Hardship Payments (HP), but unlike individual’s Jobseekers Allowance, Universal Credit (UC) is a single household payment so assessments for HP will be far more complicated for young people, let alone the fact that under UC, HP is a repayable loan.

Based on the past, ‘charities’ and not-for-profits (the third sector) are highly likely to willingly and unwittingly get involved in YOBS, by pro-actively offering work placements irrespective of whether they are mandatory workfare or ‘voluntary’.

“Forced to volunteer. That is the Orwellian notion to which contemporary liberalism has sunk.”
Source: Thomas Howell – Capitalismmagazine.com

Join Boycott Workfare‘s campaign against forced-unpaid-labour and sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.


For clarification on the differing arrangements please contact: England: the National Careers Service – Scotland: Careers ServiceMy World of Work and Wales: Careers Wales

Youth Obligation (YO) time line in Scotland?, Northern Ireland?, Wales? and England?

“So for those aged 18-21 we are introducing a new Youth Obligation that says they must either earn or learn. We are also abolishing the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds”
Source: Chancellor George Osborne’s Summer Budget 2015 speech





Youth Obligation Benefits Scheme (YOBS) – #workfare

1) The Youth Obligation Benefits Scheme (YOBS)
1.1) Mandated workfare to start October 2017
2) 2016 Welfare Action Gathering proposals
3) Pledge against youth workfare (draft)
4) Definition of youth obligation
5 The future of forced unpaid labour workfare in England

1) The Youth Obligation Benefits Scheme (YOBS

Today Westminster’s Work and Pensions Committee expressed concerns about the DWP’s plan to introduce the Youth Obligation Benefits Scheme (YOBS) for 18-21 years olds. Of particular concern was mandatory workfare placements. During the 2016 Welfare Action Gathering a number of ideas got put forward to challenge YOBS, particularly it’s workfare placements.

Seems odd that very little attention is being given to the YOBS, even though automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit/Costs has already been removed from 18-21 year olds, which was one of YOBS related objectives.

“This instrument removes automatic entitlement to housing costs in Universal Credit Full Service for some 18 to 21 year-olds…Any losses at the individual level will be largely notional.  This is because the Government expect anyone affected will either secure an early return to work (day-one support from the new Youth Obligation will  help here) or return to the parental home.  From April 2017, the new Youth Obligation will provide intensive employment support for young people from day one of their claim. After six months under the Youth Obligation, claimants who have not found sufficient work will be required to apply for an Apprenticeship, Traineeship or undertake a work placement. In the longer term it is anticipated that removing automatic entitlement to housing costs in Universal  Credit will mean young adults on benefit will not leave home in the first place”
Source: ‘Explanatory memorandum‘ to ‘The Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017

1.1) Mandated workfare to start October 2017

Mandatory work placements will probably start until October 2017, after new YOBS conscripts have been on benefits for 6 months and not ‘earning or learning’.

2) 2016 Welfare Action Gathering proposals

Suggested actions and considerations, from the 2016 Welfare Action Gathering workshop on The Future of Workfare, specific to the Youth Obligation/Workfare for 18 to 21 years olds:

Undertake a Welfare Action Gathering dedicated to young people, whilst caution expressed about dividing people and anti workfare campaigning on generational grounds.

Organise direct action, campaigns and awareness with schools and colleges

The possibility that the Platform for Life programme, may be rolled out for young needing accommodation, but including a tenancy condition of accepting any job offer.

Tenancies should be time limited and linked to participation in work, further education or vocational training, with the aim of assisting residents into long term employment and independence, and thereby improving their prospects for a successful and healthy life”

Engage with youth workers and teachers/ educationalists

Learn from and look back at the 1985 schools strike against the workfare style Youth Training Scheme

Make creative use of social media, particularly used by young people. snapchat mentioned

Engage with orgs/groups working with and run by young people

With regards ‘voluntary’ Jobcentre Work Experience, being undertaken on the basis of fully informed freely given consent, reference was made to the DWP’s ‘viciously dsyfunctionalculture of threats, sanctions and coercion.

Issues affecting rural communities, poor transport and transport costs

The growth of zero hour contracts

Lower national wage rates for under 25 year olds

Engage with community councils and young people’s assembly’s

Investigate the place young people meet and get together, activist/campaign orientated discos mentioned

Look at how Forces Watch  http://www.forceswatch.net/ works with schools and Funky Dragon http://www.funkydragon.org



Source: https://refutedarchive.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/youth-workfare-direct-action-and-campaigning-against/

3) Pledge against youth workfare (draft)

We the undersigned:

Are opposed to Youth Obligation mandatory work placements, sanctions and conditions.

Expect employers to pay wages for work experience placements, just like Pret and Mooboo Bubble Tea recently did.

Call upon charities and voluntary organisations to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.

Require Housing Costs under Universal Credit for 18-21 years olds to be reinstated.

Source: youthobligation.wordpress.com/pledge

4) Definition of youth obligation

“Young people, aged 18 to 21, who receive Universal Credit will be required, from April 2017, to participate in an intensive regime of support from day one of their benefit claim.
After six months they will be expected to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a mandatory work placement to give them the skills they need to move into sustainable employment.”
Source: http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=youth-obligation

5 The future of forced unpaid labour workfare in England

The future of forced unpaid labour workfare in England (pdf)

View doc online.

Youth Workfare: Direct Action & Campaigning Against – Ideas from the Welfare Action Gathering Workshop

Conservative 2015 manifesto proposals (pdf) on youth workfare – view online.

More at: https://refutedarchive.wordpress.com/future-of-forced-labour-england/


Workfare gangmasters, named and shamed

The UK’s most vile form of workfare was the 6 month full time unpaid Community Work Placements (CWP) mandated by Jobcentre’s. Whilst the CWP scheme is now defunct the spectre of forced labour was institutionalised by the Liberal Democract and Conservative coalition administration with the 2012 Welfare Reform Act.

Universal Credit: Work preparation requirement
“undertaking work experience or a work placement”
Welfare Reform Act (2012) – Section 16(3)(e)

On March 15th 2017 the DWP named and shamed employers who exploited conscripts,  including a number of anti-workfare hypocrites. Below the DWP’s workfare gangmasters are named and shamed, special mention must go to G4S as the overseerer of the vast majority of workfare in collusion with it’s numerous sub-contractors. Oxfam has been one of the most vocal against workfare, but it is more than puzzling how it hosted CWP in 18 locations and doing so with 11* different gangmasters? Let alone ‘Sue Ryder‘ in 33 locations

Do not forget: When DWP piloted CWP one of it’s first conscripts Jamieson Wilson refused outright to work unpaid for six months, which resulted in his benefits being stopped (sanctioned), which was then challenged in the courts with the landmark ‘Pounland‘ case. The Government response was to introduce the infamous retrospective cross-party supported ‘Jobseekers (Back to Work[fare] Schemes) Act 2013‘.

Workfare gangmasters
(DWP prime providers and sub-contractors, contracted to find CWP workfare hosts)

*Acorn Training Consultants
Faith Regen Foundation/The
*Framework Housing
*Get Set
*Learn Direct
Shropshire council
Tynemet College
*Urban Futures
Urban Futures/The Faith Regen Foundation
Working Links

Join Boycott Workfare‘s campaign against forced-unpaid-labour and sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.





@Scope quit workfare 2012, offered workfare in 18 locations 2016

 Scope quits mandatory work scheme
“Disability charity becomes fourth to exit mandatory work scheme amid fears sick benefit claimants will be forced into unpaid jobs”
Guardian: 12 December 2012






@OxfamGB workfare hypocrites in 18 locations

Morning Star: 28th Apr 2014
“Community work placements: Unite, Oxfam and Anti-Slavery International urge charity boycott of Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘forced labour’ workfare scheme for unemployed”

DWP: 15 March 2017
‘Oxfam offered Community Work Placements in 18 locations’

Be aware of the Ides of March, as the price of freedom from workfare is eternal vigilance.

“Oxfam’s head of volunteering Georgia Boon said: “Oxfam does not offer placements for participants in the mandatory work activity, or compulsory elements of ‘work for your benefits’ schemes.”

She said: “We do this for two reasons: firstly, because these schemes impact unfairly on the support people receive, and so are incompatible with our goal of reducing poverty in the UK.

“Secondly, because these schemes involve forced volunteering, which is not only an oxymoron, but undermines people’s belief in the enormous value of genuine voluntary work.

We [Oxfam] have not been involved with these schemes since March 2011